EU warns about cybersecurity risks from state-backed entities

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union on Wednesday warned of increased cyber attacks by state-backed entities and non-EU actors, saying that it was crucial to assess the risks posed by telecoms equipment suppliers with a significant market share in the bloc.

FILE PHOTO: A 5G sign is pictured at Huawei’s booth at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, China, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The comments came in a report prepared by EU countries on cybersecurity risks to 5G networks, seen as crucial to the bloc’s economic growth.

While the report does not name any country or company, observers have frequently cited China and the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker, Huawei Technologies, as potential threats.

“Among the various potential actors, non-EU states or state-backed are considered as the most serious ones and the most likely to target 5G networks,” the European Commission and Finland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said in a joint statement.

“In this context of increased exposure to attacks facilitated by suppliers, the risk profile of individual suppliers will become particularly important, including the likelihood of the supplier being subject to interference from a non-EU country,” they said.

The statement also warned against over-dependence on one telecoms equipment supplier.

“A major dependency on a single supplier increases the exposure to a potential supply interruption, resulting for instance from a commercial failure, and its consequences,” they said.

“It also aggravates the potential impact of weaknesses or vulnerabilities, and of their possible exploitation by threat actors, in particular where the dependency concerns a supplier presenting a high degree of risk.”

The U.S government wants Europe to ban Huawei’s equipment because it says this can be used by Beijing for spying, something the company has repeatedly denied.

The EU will now seek to come up with a so-called toolbox of measures by the end of the year to address the cybersecurity risks at national and EU level.

The European Agency for Cybersecurity is also finalizing a map of specific threats related to 5G networks.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Alex Richardson

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